Madness at the Darkmoon Faire is here and with it a brand new meta! In this article, I will take a look at the decks that have come out on top after the first three days.
Remember that early success is not always indicative of long-term success: Taunt Druid in The Witchwood, for example, ruled the first couple of weeks and then diminished into obscurity. On the other hand, many decks that have been on top at the start of an expansion have remained competitive in some form throughout the expansion’s life cycle, although never in the exact same for that they started with. Therefore, be careful with crafting cards this early, but if you already have the cards for some of these decks or you are close, they may well be worth a try.
#1: Soul Demon Hunter
Soul Demon Hunter was one of the top decks in Scholomance Academy, and it carries on with the same overall strategy in Madness at the Darkmoon Faire. The deck received some sweet upgrades from the new expansion.
Bladed Lady is a perfect fit for the archetype, as you regularly buff yourself to six or more Attack. It gives the deck another way to challenge the board and push through Taunt minions. Bladed Lady is the strongest new addition to the deck and a safe craft if you enjoy this archetype.
Relentless Pursuit is another Hero attack buff for the deck and can help you push even more damage. It also makes your Hero immune, but you’d rather not waste an attack to someplace else than the face, so that aspect of the card is not as important. So far, it is uncertain whether Relentless Pursuit is here to stay or just being experimented with, but it is a Common card so you most likely have it already.
Il'gynoth is the most hyped-up new card for Demon Hunter: it turns your Lifesteal into additional damage, and it is surprisingly easy to buff your Aldrachi Warblades to 15 Attack, which then becomes 30 damage if you manage to hit the face. However, Il'gynoth has one of the weakest drawn win rate statistics of all the cards in the deck: this is a common phenomenon for late-game combo win conditions, but it also means that the real importance of Il'gynoth still needs to be evaluated. It is great to OTK a slow deck with Il'gynoth, but if the meta turns out to be a fast one, there might not be enough prey for it.
Soul Demon Hunter is a deck that hits the opponent in the face relentlessly while clearing boards and healing for a ton. This has proven to be a successful concept: aggro decks struggle to deal enough damage to beat it and control decks can crumble under the constant pressure.
#2: Highlander Hunter
- 1Dwarven Sharpshooter1
- 1Mystery Winner1
- 2Freezing Trap1
- 2Open the Cages1
- 2Pack Tactics1
- 2Phase Stalker1
- 2Scavenger’s Ingenuity1
- 2Snake Trap1
- 3Animal Companion1
- 3Eaglehorn Bow1
- 3Kill Command1
- 3Petting Zoo1
- 3Unleash the Hounds1
- 4Rinling’s Rifle1
- 7Dinotamer Brann1
Highlander Hunter is another old top deck from Scholomance Academy that seems to have made a successful transition over to Madness at the Darkmoon Faire. It also received powerful new upgrades from the expansion:
Petting Zoo is strong. So strong, in fact, that it immediately became one of the best-performing cards in the deck.
Open the Cages has been mediocre so far and the Secret package is always tailored to each meta, so how much play it will see in the future depends on what kind of meta will develop. It has not been bad though and it can definitely see play in the right environment.
Inconspicuous Rider has been disappointing in Hunter so far and I expect it to be cut from the list as it evolves.
The new Hunter Secret package is strong, and perhaps the most surprising thing about it is that it has reached peak performance in a Highlander shell. Zephrys the Great and Dinotamer Brann are so strong that it is better to run single copies of the new good tools than increase the consistency of the deck by running duplicates and cutting the Highlander payoff cards.
#3: Revolve Shaman
Shaman is back!
Shaman dominated the Hearthstone meta for a long time, and it was punished for an equally long period where it received no good tools to be a major contender. Now, its long journey through the dark is over, and there are multiple promising Shaman decks, such as Totem Shaman and Enhancement Shaman. The best one, however, is a new variant of the good old Evolve Shaman – Revolve Shaman!
Evolve Shaman was never really gone, as Boggspine Knuckles, Desert Hare, and Mogu Fleshshaper were always just inches away from being viable. Now, the archetype received an absolutely bonkers improvement: Cagematch Custodian helps you tutor Boggspine Knuckles with frightening consistency, and that means an evolve show in just about every game. You can now be consistently random!
The other new cards used in the deck are performing at a lower level and it remains uncertain what their eventual fate will be.
Inara Stormcrash can help you swing the board all by herself, and can be played after Boggspine Knuckles to get two evolving swings in a single turn. Evolving Inara is usually not that great though, but it can be worth it depending on the rest of your board.
Stormstrike can help you push through and control the board, but its performance in this archetype seems poor and I expect it to be cut from future versions.
The addition of Cagematch Custodian alone has made Evolve Shaman viable. It does not look like there is any way the archetype could fail in this expansion. The only uncertainties are exactly how strong it is, and what other cards will be used in the final version.
#4: Aggro Demon Hunter
Aggro Demon Hunter looks set to become the strongest budget deck in yet another expansion. This version has had a ton of success early in the meta, and it only includes two Epic cards!
Wriggling Horror has been exactly as good as predicted, and it will have a bright future in aggro decks and budget decks for the foreseeable future.
Stiltstepper has been surprisingly good. As long as you can keep your curve low, it gives you an amazing amount of power for a cantrip.
Acrobatics is currently by far the weakest card in the deck, and I expect it to be cut from future versions. I’m also not a huge fan of Mana Burn in a list that does not have valuable targets to protect, so I believe the list can be improved to become even faster and deadlier.
#5: Zoo Warlock
Zoo Warlock is also back! I suppose that was the expectation ever since Wicked Whispers was revealed, but the real surprise to me has been just how strong Revenant Rascal is. While Wicked Whispers and Wriggling Horror are as strong as predicted, Revenant Rascal is the card that really makes the deck and has been the strongest new card in the deck. It allows you to develop while slowing the opponent down, sometimes making them completely helpless to stop your onslaught.
Other than that, it is Zoo business as usual: Hand of Gul'dan is the main draw engine that is activated with Expired Merchant and Nightshade Matron, and Raise Dead and Soul Fragments help to discount Flesh Giants for some real power moves.
#6: Pure Paladin
- 0First Day of School2
- 1Aldor Attendant2
- 2Hand of A’dal2
- 2Libram of Wisdom2
- 2Murgur Murgurgle1
- 3Goody Two-Shields2
- 4Lightforged Zealot2
- 5Aldor Truthseeker2
- 5Blessing of Authority2
- 5Carousel Gryphon2
- 5Libram of Justice2
- 6Hammer of the Naaru1
- 7Lady Liadrin1
- 7Lightforged Crusader1
- 8High Exarch Yrel1
- 9Libram of Hope2
In the late Scholomance Academy meta, Libram Paladin was stronger than Pure Paladin, but Madness at the Darkmoon Faire has seen the fortunes of these two archetypes reverse, at least in the beginning.
Pure Paladin received a new archetype-defining Legendary card in High Exarch Yrel, but surprisingly, Yrel has not been the card that defines the new deck. Quite the contrary, Yrel is one of the weakest cards in the deck, and it is uncertain whether she is even worth including. We still need more data.
Instead, the new power card has been Hammer of the Naaru! Turns out that a 6/6 Taunt minion and a 3/3 weapon for six mana is a really good deal.
The only other new card that has been experimented with is Carousel Gryphon, and it does not look too strong either. In fact, many people are still playing their old Scholomance Academy Pure Paladin decks, and doing just fine. It does look like Hammer of the Naaru will become a staple in the archetype though.
There are several new decks that have received a lot of attention but that are not quite there yet in terms of demonstrated performance. This does not mean that they will not become common opponents on the ladder: for example, in Scholomance Academy, Cyclone Mage saw far more play than its performance warranted. All of these decks have reached above 50% win rates, so they are viable, and should they be fully refined, they might become serious contenders.
Clown Druid is talked about a lot, and no wonder, because dropping a Survival of the Fittest followed by a full board of 8/8 Carnival Clowns is back-breaking. The deck’s performance does not match the hype though, as it can barely surpass a 50% win rate with many variants not even breaking even.
There are many questions regarding the deck’s future development. How many Old Gods should be included? Should there be any? What is the survival package of the deck? In this version, Muzzy has opted to use Guardian Animals for the first swing before going for killer Clowns. Muzzy also uses two Old Gods, which is great for slow games but can be too greedy against aggression.
Another interesting new deck is the ETC OTK Warrior. For the combo, you play E.T.C., God of Metal, damage it with Pen Flinger (original version) or Guardian Augmerchant (TheFishou’s improved version of the combo), make copies of it with Bloodsworn Mercenary, and give everything Rush with Animated Broomstick. Then you just Rush your board into the opponent’s minions and have all the ETCs start dealing damage to the face for up to 42 damage in a single turn.
Warrior overall is doing quite well so far: Enrage Warrior, Bomb Warrior, Control Warrior, and ETC OTK Warrior all have win rates clearly above 50%, so the class seems set for yet another successful expansion.
Secret Mage is an archetype that has been talked about a lot, but that has yet to live up to the hype. Sure, it is capable of winning more than half of its games, but real success still eludes the archetype. So far, Occult Conjurer and Inconspicuous Rider have been the new cards that have improved the archetype the most, while Sayge, Seer of Darkmoon and Rigged Faire Game have been disappointing. There is a lot of refinement ahead for Secret Mage.
Madness at the Darkmoon Faire is a strong expansion. Even when top decks from previous expansions have remained at the top, they have incorporated new cards from Darkmoon Faire into the decks. Shaman and Warlock are back in the meta, and there are several new archetypes for other classes that are going through refinement right now, so the meta may yet change in significant ways. For the next weeks, there will be plenty of interesting Hearthstone action!